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ABOUT THIS BLOG

In the summer of 2009, Nicolas Rapp decided to take a break from his Art Director job at The Associated Press to attempt a one-year overland travel around the world in a 1996 Toyota Land Cruiser. He was back in New York in February 2011 after traveling 15 months and 37,000 miles.

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  • The road to Calcutta

    Posted on October 8th, 2010 Nicolas No comments
    You can’t get bored on the road as you see the strangest equipages.

    You can’t get bored on the road as you see the strangest equipages.

    Leaving Hampi.

    Leaving Hampi.

    From Hampi to the eastern side of India, it is not a region well known for travelers. In fact, not many tourists are to be seen on the road. Officially, there’s not much to see there, except maybe Hyderabad, which I chose to avoid as I am not looking forward to the craziness of Indian hyper populated cities. I use mostly secondary roads, and the progress can be slow. Roads are bad at places, with many of potholes, so I find myself in driving conditions that remind me a little of Africa.

    Laundry in the river.

    Laundry in the river.

    People are driving in an incredible dangerous way, not paying attention to any rules with vehicles in terrible shape. It is understood that the battery should be saved, so many people don’t use headlights at night except when they get close to you. Between Mumbai and Calcutta, I may have seen three people using their turn signal. And Indian drivers don’t need any rearview mirrors. In fact they often just keep it folded to save space.

    The center of India is dedicated to agriculture.

    The center of India is dedicated to agriculture.

    I avoid driving at night when people seem to think it is OK to drive even faster.
    From Hampi I go east and avoid Hyderabad, passing south of the city. Then, as I get closer to the coast I go north toward Calcutta. In the first part of this leg I slept at gas stations along the way where I only get moderate rest and wake up with ten people watching me. Everybody is very nice, and as I said in my previous post, very curious about my adventures. The only problem is that I notice that little things tend to disappear as keeping control of the crowd can be tricky. Once, as I stop to get gas, someone even took off with my tank cap forcing me to hunt a new one in the nearby city.

    The main mode of transportation in India’s smallest towns, the tuk-tuk.

    The main mode of transportation in India’s smallest towns, the tuk-tuk.

    The area stands out with pretty landscape of rolling plantations. Lot of cows around, as always, but also I can now spot pigs, which I didn’t see since a long time as they are nowhere to be seen in Muslim countries. How ironic, I am now as surprise to see pigs than I was to see elephants in Africa.
    You see a lot of misery around, and at best people live in a really low quality of life. It is very different from Central America where people enjoy a minimum of comfort, or at least some decent place to live.
    Once I get on the coast, I stop in various places going north, including Visakhapatnam or Gopalpur. I pay hotels to let me use their parking lots. There, I get more privacy and can relax a bit. Things should be similar in Bangladesh where the population density should be even higher.

    A lot more rain on the eastern regions of India.

    A lot more rain on the eastern regions of India.

    I am still surprised at the fact that most people don’t speak English and communication can be difficult. There are no signs on the road and have to keep asking people for direction.

    Night is falling, time to find a place to spend the night…

    Night is falling, time to find a place to spend the night…

    Food is sometimes difficult to find outside of populated areas and I have to use my canned reserves to avoid not-so-seducing meals. When eating in places along the road, I mostly stick to vegetarian food, which I consider safer. But even so, an insect encrusted vegetable curry is not necessary appetizing.

    At highway’s toll booths, employees can never decide if I have to pay or not.

    At highway’s toll booths, employees can never decide if I have to pay or not.

    Finally I make it to Calcutta and I can enjoy the diversity of restaurant and try to gain back the lost weight. I check in at the “Broadway” a very old school hotel where I can get a minimum of luxury for US$10 a night. No hot showers still, but real showers at least.

    The traffic is always intense in big cities. Here, Calcutta.

    The traffic is always intense in big cities. Here, Calcutta.

    The first thing I do when I arrive in the city is to go to the Bangladesh embassy to apply for a visa. That should be ready in two days for the amount of US$35. Meanwhile, I will spend time in the city and explore the crowded and narrow streets.

    Welcome to Calcutta.

    Welcome to Calcutta.

    When I will be ready to leave, it should be two hours of driving to the Bangladesh border. From there, I expect slightly worst roads and a five hours drive to Dhaka, the country capital.

    At the “Broadway Hotel” Sit-down toilets and cold shower available.

    At the “Broadway Hotel” Sit-down toilets and cold shower available.

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35 Responses to “The road to Calcutta”

  1. Charles A (Santa Clara, Ca.)

    Hey Nick,
    I am glad you are making good progress. You covered more than 800 miles since your last post and all on secondary roads? That seems like a lot of work. You said little thing go missing in the crowds, what is the most curious thing that you can no longer find? In the self-portrait of you at the Broadway Hotel, is that the look of despair over not having hot water or are you just tired? A few years ago I purchased a portable camp shower from Zodi because my wife won’t go camping unless she can wash her hair, at least, every other day. It would have been ideal for you in this situation. It runs off the small propane cylinders and “D” batteries and I must say it is worth its weight in… ah, Silver.

    Stay safe my friend
    Charlie

  2. Nick,

    The picture with the taxis looks something out of the 1950’s. Even Djibouti has newer looking taxis. I do have to say that it looks like they keep them in good shape though.

    Also, that bridge you were on looks like it was really really high up. Was it or was it just the angle of the picture? I think I’d be a little scared since the lack of road signs probably means they don’t inspect the bridges either.

    Looks like an interesting place though. The more you travel the more I see how far ahead of cultures (in technology aspects) the Western world is. I’m sure there are some tradeoffs to a more simple lifestyle (in India) but I surely coudldn’t point them out. I prefer to do my laundry at least at a laundry mat.

    Take care and I look forward to your next post!

    Dave

  3. Ah, the Ambassadors… those taxis are a remnant of the old British days and are everywhere in India. It’s interesting to see how some of them are done up – I saw a dark purple one once with whitewall tires! It’s interesting to see some pictures of the coutryside, if it weren’t for the palm trees it could be somewhere here in the heartland. Glad to see you’re making good progress, wishing you all the best in Bangladesh. Oh – and WOW! That is some hair on that tollbooth worker… =)

  4. you’ll need about a year after your travels to digest ALL that you’ve experienced and seen. thank you for answering my question about what occupies your time while driving. your caption, the boys’ expression, and i’m sure the smile on your face while taking the picture says it all: you’re always busy on this Year of Living Dangerously. truly, India looks like a beautiful country!

    I absolutely love your self portrait at the Broadway Hotel. …a picture worth a thousand words….

    breathe and absorb, friend
    suzanne

  5. Again, amazing pics. I keep looking at the laundry. I will never again get upset when I have to crawl over my washing machine door INSIDE my laundry room! Are you making a list of the places you want to return to and spend more time? As always my prayers go with you for safe travel.

  6. Ok those pictures were not beautiful, unlike the last ones.

    Nick it looks like this drive in India is taking it’s toll, even your writing seems like you are down and suffering. Surely it cannot be an easy thing to be so far from home and it’s comforts with nary a person to speak to who can even understand you. You have been on your own for so long now, is the isolation getting you down?

    I surely hope the next picture of you shows you with a full tummy and a smile on your face. Soon you will be out of India and hopefully onto happier roads.

  7. Ah, Nick, how thin you are! And the food continues to get more and more exotic as you go along. Here’s hoping you can get some good meals so you won’t get too run-down. Thank you so much for sharing your adventures with us. Your blog has allowed me to vicariously experience your travels…the good and the not-so-good experiences. I do searches on the places and people you are seeing so I can see and learn more about them. I will miss this when your trip is done!

  8. Keep on truckin’ Nick. There are a lot of people (like me) who are tracking your adventure and living the experience through you. Keep up the great posts. Will be checking in each week to catch your next adventure. Stay safe! G-man

  9. Ms. Marti~Nashville, TN

    Nick your finally getting there!! Really appreciate the pics of locals, as it seems there isn’t much else to take pictures of. Seeing the poverty should make each and every one of us greatfull for what we have. The children that are following should also recognize that too!! Again, we are fortunate to see the world through your eyes and heart. Now the picture of you, geez we all are worried now about how much weight you have lost from flu and not so good food. Hopefully one of your followers will hook-up with you and treat you to a wonderful meal soon. How is the schedule going for getting back to the states in November?

    Ms. Marti~Forge on my friend!!

  10. I think it is interesting reading your take on India. I have been following your blog since mexico, and dream of driving around the world.
    I spent two weeks this time last year there on Vacation. My wife and I took public transportation through Rajasthan. We stayed in decent hotels but hired drivers off the streets in each town and took the train system for most of the trip.
    Your comments and thoughts are very similar to ours. But that surprises me, because this was our first time in what I would consider a 3rd world country and you have been in many. This is the first time you seem in disgust on the way people act and behave towards foreigners.
    What country would you recommend visiting the most? I am thinking a driver from South Dakota where I live now to Panama would be a nice stretch but was curious what you would recommend seeing.
    Ryan

  11. It seems like you have sped through India, missing many of the sights you had planned to see. I suspect you may have grown weary of this voyage and now just want it to be over. Who can blame you for that? Took me quite a while to locate Calcutta on Google maps as they have it labeled Kolkata. We’re still living vicariously and learning from your fabulous journey. Enjoy the remainder of your trip, and see all the sights you are able to. You may never pass this way again. Travel safe.

  12. Hallo Nick — my first post here but have been with you since you departed New York. I think you look fine in the picture. No one does a big toothy grin in a self portrait! However, I do appreciate a hot shower. I’m wondering how much it would cost to find a similar hotel but with hot showers. I’m willing to foot the bill for a couple of nights. 🙂 800 miles on the back roads and then a cold shower just sounds painful to me. Have you considered a solar shower? Lots of sunshine in India.

    My thanks and best wishes for safe travel on this great, great adventure.

  13. I went to India back in February of this year, and by far some of the craziest driving I have ever experienced. Night time driving is another set of craziness. No day has a dull moment as you never know what you will see between the deep poverty, and great wealth. In all my travels around the world I had never seen anything like it! I didnt think I would ever miss it, but after 6 months I look back to those experiences with fond memories. Enjoy your last few days there!

  14. Hey Nick,

    I bet you are regretting not getting that care package now! Sounds like you could have used a lot of good food even if it was in a can. Tuna, anchovies and even spam!
    My daughter and I just returned from a cruise to the Bahamas. My first time there. Outside of the city center was nothing but poverty. Dirty streets, old dilapidated houses, and it seems every Tom, Dick and Harry was trying to sell me weed. Go figure. Not what I expected from a Caribbean Island. I’ve seen poverty in all the countries I’ve been to but this was too much. The only “good” places were either the resorts or wealthy areas of the island. In the city center you were constantly being accosted to buy something or use their services, taxis, mopeds or other nontraditional types of transportation. Such is life, or as you say in France, C’est la vie!
    We have a saying in Spain where I am from also, “What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.” You must be the strongest man in the world!
    Keep pushing it to the limit my friend.

    Manolo

  15. HI Nick,

    Wow,you have covered quite a ground from Hampi to Kolkata. I thought you would visit Hyderabad but that’s OK. As others have pointed out, you must have grown weary of the trip

    I have seen your personal response about why you skipped Hyderabad. I can understand your frustration about the traffic in the Indian cities.

    Vijay

  16. Nick,

    Glad to hear you are finally getting a shower and some kind of room and bed. I have been following your expedition from the very beginning and I do see you have lost quite a bit of weight. How much weight have you lost exactly?

    You also look a bit drained on the picture. Stay in high spirits my friend and pack some food in whlie you can.

    Godspeed!

  17. I agree with the bridge comment, it appears to be quite high. And the toll booth workers hair! They seem to love small mustaches also.
    I would be cautious on what you eat…. often wondered how your digestive system has handled the local fares in the countries you’ve passed through.

    Thanks for the update!

  18. Hi all,
    No worry, I am good. It is true that I am now a bit tired, which is the effect of such a long trip. Almost one year on the road. I always think that the most difficult thing in such travel is the energy spent to solve problems, cumulatively. In short, endurance is the most tested skill to go around the world.
    India is fine and fun, even so it has its problems as every country I crossed, and I am glad I am here.
    Thanks for the support!

  19. Beth-Kirkland WA

    Hi Nick!

    Love the pictures as always–especially the sheep going for a ride on the motor cycle! (It is a sheep right? 😉 ) That one should be framed! 🙂

    One thing I’ve never asked that I’m curious about, do you have a cell phone with you? Just saw that the UAE decided not to ban blackberries and it got me wondering if you have one to call home, hotels, etc?

    Keep pressing on! Can’t wait for your future book with pictures! It will be a best seller! You are going to write one when you get back aren’t you? 🙂

    Blessings!
    Beth

  20. Donna Ft Lauderdale USA

    Hey Nick, I was wondering where to find your route home and when you expect to be back in the good ole USofA. The pictures certainly make me appreciate so much our wonderful country, (not that I didn’t already) but when you see so many countries living the way that they do, the reality of my beautiful paved streets, my a/c car, no cows etc in the street, nor a bunch of people on bikes to advoid as I drive to my favorite resturant to get a meal that I am certain doesn’t consist of bugs or questionable things, clicks in big time. It’s been an experience, for sure. I’ve enjoyed every update, all your writings and of course the pictures, but most of all, it’s been a big reality check of how very blessed I am and our country. So???? when are you coming home? hugs from home, Donna

  21. Hi Nick, Happy to see your progress and sad to hear that you are frustrated with the rather slowly developing infrastructure (like all of us) in India and the materilaistic poverty a few talk about.

    With all due respects, nothing personal, please allow me to post a few of my observations. I have travelled and lived in a few western countries namely US, NZ, FRA, GER, SWI. Huge cultural difference and a completely different world as we all say.

    One of the most prominent difference among all was that every 9 out of 10 kids in India knew who their father was but in the west it was about 6 out of 10.

    The world is not about being Materialistic but rather Humane and I am sure you would have seen it even among the poorest of poors in India. Not sure if you had an opportunity to observe and feel the real India. Its all about RELATIONSHIPS. Most Indians know who their great grandfather was but you know the obvious in the west.

    I grew up celebrating festivities of all relegions in my neighbourhood, I had Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs as my neighbours and friends and we all used to understand the value of every belief and respect them, can it be done in the west?

    Cheers Mate, have fun and I hope to read my comments in your blog.

    Keep Driving

  22. Hello Nick:

    Thanks so much for your response to our concerns about your health, namely apparent weight loss and appearance to be rather down in spirit. You will no doubt experience ebbs and flows on this journey around the world. It is obvious that the ebb and flow changes must run their course and play out in all directions (physical, emotional, etc.). But, the good news is that you have reached the top of the mountain there in India and the remainder of the journey back home will be the light at the end of your tunnel and safe return home. My suggestion: the next chance you have don’t pass up an opportunity to treat yourself to one full day of (head to toe) pampering at a luxurious spa’ and an overnight stay at a first class hotel: a steam room, facial, massage etc. I know my perspective is very feminine, but I hear from my husband that it works for men too. Just an idea. Take care and keep your chin up. Hugs,
    -joyMaria

  23. Hi Nick,

    Your line “India is fine and fun, even so it has its problems as every country I crossed, and I am glad I am here.” was amazing and sums up the trip correctly. An educated person and world traveller like you can truly understand the postive and negative aspects of every country .Please keep up the good work and enlighten the people reading the blog, making them aware that ridiculing another country just to feel blessed about your own is not the right way. Thanks for your balanced and unbiased view and I am glad that you will be progressing towards Bangladesh soon.

  24. Hi Nicolas. I’m pretty new to your journey. I’ve been back tracking over the past month or so to try and get up to speed. Your descriptions and photos are entirely captivating and I’m finding after I read one, that I have to follow it with two or three more. Best regards, stay motivated, and do your best to glean some positives from these difficult destinations. I and many others will be with you ‘in spirit’ right to the end.

  25. Nick,

    I do hope that you find something to re-energize you during this last leg of the trip. I’m sure this nodmiac lifestyle is wearing on you. Your travels did inspire my husband and I to take a short trip to see some of the Mayan ruins on the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. Of course the photos are never really like actually being there. As fantastic as your photos have been, we can only imagine what this experience has truely been like and how it may have changed you as a person. Keep inspiring others to open up their world a little more.

    In Deep Appreciation,
    Kara

  26. Nodmiac?? Sorry everyone, that was supposed to be nomadic. I guess that’s what happens when you try to do too much at once. Should have proof-read before posting. 🙂

    Kara

  27. man crowd control, sounds like no fun plus waking up to people staring at ya.

  28. Harvey (Naples, FL)

    Nick is teaching us old lessons from a new book… one in which he is in the process of writing. All he has to do is complete the story and let us all read… We’re all waiting… for the final chapter… Safe travels!

    “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain

    “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine

    “There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

    “He who does not travel does not know the value of men.” – Moorish proverb

    “People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home.” – Dagobert D. Runes

    “A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.” – John Steinbeck

    “No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.” – Lin Yutang

  29. Namaste Nick,

    Don’t you worry about the road conditions in Bangladesh. You will be surprised. They will be super as hardly any car drives outside Dhaka. But inside Dhaka, be amazed by the absence of car horns and hear only bicycle bells. I wished I could be back there with you.

    Have you learned eating with your hands yet, because in Bangladesh they will take it even further and scoop the plate clean with your fingers and then lick your fingers clean! The vitamins are on the bottom they say! Try the local speciality a cooked cow hoof.

    Adventurous greetings,
    Coen

  30. howzit Nic?
    Are you quiet on the blog today because of the celebrations? Are lots of people celebrating the famous 2-0 test series victory over Aus?
    Looking forward to your next update.
    Godspeed,
    wim.

  31. Nico,

    I am so glad to see you are doing great on your adventure! Can’t believe your travels since i last saw your posts back when you were having port troubles in the Arabian Sea. Glad you are moving along nicely! Thanks for all the interesting and exciting pictures! We need to get you some gas allowance 🙂 LOL!

    Keep on trucking!

    Be safe and take care!
    PS — Use lots of hand sanitizer.

  32. Harvey in Naples, your posts always make me smile, thanks!

    Nick, thanks for taking us along on your ride. I have loved every minute of it. Who would have thought I would be so absorbed in a blog. I check daily (ok maybe sometimes a few times a day) just to see if there are any new developments. If not, I check to see what new comments have been added just to stay a part of the journey. Hmmmm perhaps I need to get out more and plan my own adventure. Until then, thanks for keeping all of our dreams of adventure and understanding alive. 🙂

    Jaime

  33. Harvey,

    Thanks for the quotes! My favorite was…

    “There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

    So very true. I’m sure Nic’s is…

    “No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.” – Lin Yutang

    I don’t know what I’ll do once the final chapter is written. Maybe find another blog to follow or take a small trip of my own.

    BTW…Nic, I’m starting to lose it here in Djibouti…just like you said I would…lol Every day I think to myself, why don’t they do it this way or that way and then the power goes out. Have you experienced a lot of power outages on your journey? Actually, I know you have but where have you experienced them the most? I know you spend most of the time sleeping on the truck but maybe you can shed some light…no pun intended.

  34. Ms. Marti~Nashville, TN

    Dave you are soooo very right about when the trip is over. I spend everyday checking for new updates and look forward to everyone’s response. Whether I like some of them or not. LOL Maybe Nick will continue some sort of blog after he gets back to the States. I’m certain he will be somewhat relieved not to feel like he has to answer to all of us worrying about him. Thanks again Dave for taking good care of NIck in Djibouti. You and Dr. JoyMarie are so very lucky to have been able to visit with him and really know who he is during this wonderful travel. Smoke some of that Hooka for me!! LOL

    Forge on my friend Nick
    Ms. Marti~

  35. Hello Ms. Marti:

    I have enjoyed your comments on Nick’s blog and know that you too will one day meet Nick in person, as you have already done so in spirit. Safe travels Nick….our thoughts and prayers are not too far from you. Hugs,
    -joyMaria